Context – train riding to the suburbs
I saw The Contortionist with Polyphia and Between the Buried and Me a few weeks ago (or was that only a week ago? Seems like forever; I miss you Lucas and Lawrence!), and they were definitely the oddball of the evening. While I didn’t hear much of Toothgrinder, the opening act, I can safely say they were of the prog-metal variety. Polyphia is less metal these days, but their technical riffage was only matched by Between the Buried and Me, so there’s a clear line that could have been drawn from A to B.
The Contortionist wasn’t quite so technical, although very proggy. But not that metal either, except for the times that they were. As I mentioned in my review, they may be one of the more aptly named bands in all of existence, twisting their limbs to fit into whatever box they feel necessary for the evening. Although most of those boxes were space, prog, or metal.
Ever curious and too lazy to figure out a different band to listen to, I gave this album (and 2014’s Language) a listen to better assess where I stand with the band. If anything, I must confess, I’m more clueless than ever.
While I feel like both their ambient prog and their metal are both a little vanilla on their own, the magic comes from the synthesis of their stylings into something cohesive. When a band like The Ongoing Concept tries to freshen up metal with a banjo, it’s clearly mediocre metal with a banjo, and once they transition from one into the other the thought goes “oh I guess we’re doing this now.” The Contortionist either doesn’t have or has long since gotten over these growing pains as their music seamlessly ebbs from transience to brutality without making you aware of the door they pushed you through.
Clairvoyant is better than the sum of its parts, to be sure, but I’m still not sure if this is a thing I can get behind. To their credit, it’s interesting enough that I’m going to keep listening until I can firmly plant myself in one category or another, whereas most times I find myself at this cross-roads I just forget the band existed. The question then becomes how long do I stay on this ride before it just becomes a thing I do like saying “YOLO” or “swag money get bitches”, both of which have memed my way into lexicon through an awkward mixture of irony turned nostalgia.
To that end I have no answers, but I’ll do my best to keep you posted as I go along.